A brand profile or style guide is how you systematize your brand’s visual image to ensure that your brand voice is always present across all your content channels. It helps ensure you give a coherent, recognizable and pleasing experience to your audience.
It also helps your designers work in a highly streamlined way, without needing lots of messy revisions. And it ensures you streamline your whole content creation process because you’ll always know what visual elements to include in your content without having to reinvent the wheel all the time.
Brand profiles can be as simple or detailed as you like, depending on how much control you want over your output and how much freedom you let your designers have.
But in our view there are some crucial elements a strong brand profile should have, which we will go through shortly. Let’s look at what goes into brand profile.
Medium has a very understated, but highly considered visual style. They place an emphasis on the power of words, so their designs reflect this. But at the same time they tastefully integrate illustration and color scheme to make the brand look sophisticated, modern, and thoughtful.
Image Source: Medium
Look at all the consideration that goes into a simple page header from Medium.com.
Things like logo font, logo placing, link font & color, and details such as what fonts should be used in buttons and how they should be styled with like colors and borders.
Now look at the visual elements on their topics menu...
We see a simple use of text, with consistent font.
The grid of images uses a simple white font over rectangular thumbnails which have very slight rounding to the corners (this tiny detail shows they have a very fine-tuned sense of style).
Then look at the images in the thumbnails. Although each image is different they all go really well together.
They tend to be in understated colors, often in black and white or hazy tones. The images are sophisticated and arty, often using abstract imagery like smoke or lens flare. This is all a deliberate choice to show a brand that brings together thoughtful pieces about the interconnected world we live in.
All these details are nailed down in their style guide in close detail.
This is their logo. The style guide requires that it has a minimum display size, and should always be used unless it doesn’t fit into the design, in which case the Medium monogram should be used instead.
The wordmark must have a certain amount of clear white space around it.
The Medium style guide details a primary and secondary color palette which designers can use.
The secondary palette is only to be used when too much of the primary palette has already been used in the design.
Not only does the guide show how to use the color palettes, it shows how not to use them too.
Designers aren’t psychic, and sometimes words are not enough to convey your visions.
To ensure a frictionless and streamlined design process, follow these tips on what elements to include in your style guide.
It’s a good idea to identify the core pieces of content you need for your content channel and then build the rest of your style guide around that. It sets the tone for your whole vision.
First, what is your main channel? Identify the visual content you’ll need.
If it’s YouTube, you’ll need your channel art cover to kick things off and set the tone.
Once you have this big picture stuff down you can then apply the design to the other elements such as the profile image.
You should make sure you have the correct art dimension for your platform. For example, here’s YouTube's channel art specs:
Image Source: Google Support
Notice how YouTube’s specs include different display formats so that the artwork is optimized across TV, desktop, tablet and mobile. Be sure to include these specification in your style guide as appropriate.
Here’s entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk’s channel art.
Notice how the profile image is taken from the channel art design.
This ensures consistency, though it doesn’t have to be this direct.
Vlogger Grace Helbig’s channel icon is different to her channel art, but it matches her aesthetic of light grey colors and black lines.
Image Source: Grace Helbig
When creating profile pics like this, make sure you follow the platform’s specs and include these in your brand profile.
A lot goes into the visual style of your content channel. Just take a look at all the elements in the I Will Teach You To Be Rich landing page.
he way all the different elements are laid out on the page gives brands a distinctive image.
So you need to identify an art style that matches your brand voice.
A great way to do this is to put together a “swipe file”, a collection of images and graphics that illustrate the look you want to go for.
The point of this is not to directly copy other people but to create a “mood board” that evokes the feel and vibe you want your art to put across to your audience. Refer to your brand voice guidelines to ensure your style guide reflects your image.
Here’s a swipe file from a law firm who wanted a modern, sleek and sophisticated look. It includes logos, business cards, and even apparel and furnishings to give an idea of how the brand sees itself.
Image Source: 99 Designs
An easy way to create a mood board is using Pinterest. This way you can easily create a “pin board” of images you find on the web.
You should also include notes on how to combine images together. Take a look at the Gary Vee podcast art:
Image Source: The Gary Vee Audio Experience
It includes a lot of different visual elements; lots of action shots of his guests, a cutout of Gary in the centre with thick white outlines for clarity, and it’s laid out on an energetic red background which features illustrations to create a vibrant, jazzy feel that is full of energy and life.
It’s interesting to note that it has a much more colorful feel than Gary’s YouTube cover, which is more serious. It goes to show that there is a lot of room for variation in your designs. Your brand profile is about setting parameters in which your designers can be creative.
If your brand is a personal brand you may use photos of you or the person your brand is built around in your content. Include instructions on how photos should be placed.
It’s worth reading the Jamie Oliver brand guide in full. It’s a good model for providing detailed guidance for freelancers.
Image Source: FRV Brand Guidelines
For example, it requests that Jamie’s photos not be printed around corners, to avoid weird distortions of his body!
Your style guide should specify whether you use cutouts or full photos and whether they can be color, monochrome or a mix of both.
The Jamie Oliver style guide specifies a monochrome cut out image of Jamie, but designers are not to use it simply as black and white, they have to use a color wash from their color scheme.
Your style guide should include notes on how to combine text with photos and images.
In the world of content creation, especially if you are on YouTube, thumbnails get used a lot. Put together a template for your designers to use.
It should specify where font should be placed in an image, the relative size of headers and subheaders, and the font type to be used.
If you already have thumbnail designs you’re happy with, add these to your style guide and ask your designers to use this as a basis for future thumbnails and any other content that combines images and text.
Image Source: Songs to Wear Pants to
It’s essential that the same colors are used across all designs, because even slight variations in color can create a discordant look. Creating a color swatch is an essential way to ensure color consistency. You can use a color scheme generator called Coolors to do this.
You can use it to randomly generate color schemes that work really well together, or use colors from your existing designs to automatically generate complementary colors.
Alternatively, you can use a range of pre-made color palettes and customize them to suit your brand identity.
Once you have your color pallete you can then make a decision as to whether your designers have the freedom to use variations in color shades and gradients.
You can use a tool like Colorhexa to do this. Just input the HEX code (eg, #af9164) from your color scheme and it will find complementary color shades and gradients.
Image Source: ColorHexa
This gives your designers freedom to come up with diverse designs using a range of colors, but will ensure that nothing clashes and that your brand image is not diluted.
You can create shades of a color by gradually adding black to it, and you can give it a tint by gradually adding white to it, like in the examples below.
A color gradient is a range of colors that flow together in a seamless way. You may be familiar with them if you’ve ever used Microsoft Paint, or other programs with color pickers.
Image Source: PasteColor
You can use free online tool ColorSpace to create gradients of your brand’s color scheme.
This will ensure your color scheme evolves organically without ever losing consistency.
Image Source: My Color Space
The fonts your brand uses are extremely important to get right, especially if a large amount of your content is text-based.
Some of the most popular brands use fonts that have been around since the 1500s, like Apple who used the Garamond font for their “Think different” campaign slogan. This font was designed in the 16th century!
Image Source: Think Different
By using fonts from an era when new technology like the printing press was changing the world, they showed that Apple were forward-thinking, with an eye on history, and had the ability to make historic changes
By contrast, Spotify use a font called Proxima Nova, which was invented in 2005.
Image Source: Spotify
This font looks hip and modern, and its soft, rounded edges are appropriate for the social media age. They use a sans serif font which is easier to read on screens than serif fonts.
When choosing the typography for your brand, think about what you want your font to say about your content. Check out as many font options as you can and make notes of which ones work for your brand.
You can create a mood board or swipe file for fonts too, just like you did with images (if you think about it, fonts are a form of image, and they are just as important to your brand, especially if you’re a blogger!).
Image Source: Psychology of Fonts
Take a look at brands you’d like to emulate and what fonts they use. Take screen shots that you can add to your style guide.
Image Source: Hustler's Digest
You can use the online font selection tool WhatTheFont to upload fonts you want to emulate and it will generate a list of similar fonts to use for your brand. You can also find free fonts on sites like 1001FreeFonts.com.
Image Source: What the Font
You may already have a logo you’re happy with, in which case it’s important to include it in your style guide. Include instructions for how the logo should be used in different contexts.
Here’s the logo section from the Jamie Oliver style guide:
Image Source: Brand Guidelines
It includes usage do’s and don’ts, as well as instructions on what to do when reducing the logo size.
Most large brands have style guides available online. For example, search for “Spotify style guide” and you’ll find their very detailed guidelines.
Image Source: Branding Guidelines
If you want to redesign your logo, you can once again put together a mood board to send to designers.
When it comes to logos, you’re spoilt for choice. There are actually 7 different types of logos you can use: abstract marks (Pepsi), mascot logos (KFC), combination marks (Burger King), emblem logos (Harvard), lettermarks or monograms (NASA, HBO, IBM), pictorial marks (Apple) and wordmarks (Google).
Image Source: Sample Logos
Create a mood board with designs you’d like to emulate.
It may be that you already have a logo but you want to incorporate it into new designs in different ways.
Take a look at how your favourite brands use logos in different contexts and take screenshots to include in your style guide.
Image Source: YouTube
Another way to streamline the design process and ensure consistency is to include pre-existing designs in your style guide. Do this for each category of content you want.
For example, you may have YouTube channel art, but don’t have a channel icon or thumbnail design. If your designer sees these designs they won’t have to reinvent the wheel to create new content, and this will save you lots of time and money.
Similarly, if you have a blog header, but need to design a visually appealing landing page, include it in your style guide.
Image Source: Neil Patel
If you follow these tips you will be able to create a brand profile style guide you can share with freelancers and designers without worrying that your brand vision will get lost in translation. To help you do this you can download our brand profile worksheet to get started right away.
Danni is a freelance writer based in glorious Glasgow, Scotland. She writes about web design, SEO, digital marketing, and advice for freelancers and small businesses. When not writing she plays fingerstyle guitar and learns to code.
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